It’s easy to feel overwhelmed after you’ve sustained a serious injury. Everything immediately afterward can seem like a big blur. What’s next?
If you’re unsure what steps you should take after a serious injury, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ve crafted a detailed guide of what you need to do following your injury. Let’s get started.
Determine How You Were Injured
After you’ve been injured, your immediate next steps might look a little bit different depending on how you sustained your injury. Below, we’ve listed a few common ways people sustain serious injuries and what the immediate next steps might entail.
If you were injured in a car accident, it’s likely you’ll need medical treatment immediately. In this scenario, evidence and witness accounts will be incredibly important. Items such as a police report of the incident will also be important to have. If you plan on taking another party involved in the car accident to court, it will be crucial to proving fault.
An injury that occurs while you’re on the job may be covered by workers’ compensation. The vast majority of businesses are required to carry this insurance in the event that employee injuries just like yours occur. There’s no need to prove fault here, as workers comp ensures a business assumes fault for your injuries. In these instances, it’s important to understand your employer’s workers’ compensation policy.
If you’re bitten by a dog, it’s very likely that the dog’s owner will assume responsibility, willingly or otherwise, for your injury. Laws may vary from state to state, but in some cases, a dog owner will be liable for dog bite damages even if their dog has never shown signs of aggression before.
Slip and Fall Injuries
Slip and fall injuries are probably some of the most common types of injuries you’ll see in personal injury cases. In these events, it’s typically the property owner or the company leasing that property who is at fault for this injury. While the property owner’s liability can depend on the situation, they are legally obligated to keep their premises safe and free of hazards.
What You Should Do Immediately After Your Injury
It’s hard to determine how you’ll react to the distress of being injured until you’re in the thick of it. But no matter your situation, it’s important to keep a few immediate actions in mind following your injury.
Ensure Your Safety
Remaining calm after sustaining an injury can be difficult. As best as you can, try to take deep breaths and be aware of your surroundings. If you’re not in a secure location after you’ve been injured, try to move to one if you’re able. This step is especially important if you’ve been injured in a high traffic area where the danger is still present. For example, if you’ve been injured in a parking lot or on a road, you’ll need to maneuver your way to a sidewalk or shoulder in order to prevent further injury.
Contact the Police
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, calling 911 is the first step you need to take, no matter what. A 911 dispatcher can send police and other emergency workers to attend to your situation. In addition, a police report may be a key piece of evidence, should you decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
Seek Medical Attention
Your number one priority, after ensuring you’re in a safe location, is to seek out medical attention for your injury. In the event of a car accident, medical personnel will often be dispatched along with police, so again, it’s important to call 911 as soon as possible after your injury. If you’ve sustained an injury and you can get yourself to a hospital, do so immediately. The sooner you have your injury assessed and treated, the sooner you can take the next steps to physical and financial recovery.
If you are able, gather names and contact information from other parties involved in or witness to your injury. This will ensure you have the appropriate evidence and witness accounts, should you need them. In the event of a dog bite or a slip and fall accident, this information is going to be crucial in your next steps. If you’re injured on the job, make sure you obtain all of the necessary information about your employer’s workers’ compensation policy. There may be paperwork you need to fill out and people you need to consult with before fully reaping those benefits.
When You Should Speak with a Lawyer
After your initial action following your injury, it can feel like there’s not much else to do. That being said, it could be in your best interest to start thinking about speaking with a lawyer soon. This may be especially important if you’ve sustained a serious injury that will prevent you from working or going about your daily tasks as you normally would.
So when does your injury merit speaking with a lawyer? There are four requirements you should think about before reaching out to a personal injury lawyer:
- Duty: You’ll need to have evidence that the party responsible for your injury had a duty to act with reasonable caution. This reasonable caution is to avoid the risk of injury to other people, like yourself.
- Breach: In order to have the grounds for a personal injury lawsuit, you must also prove that the responsible party was in breach of their duty to exercise reasonable caution. They could have breached their duty by acting in a careless manner or in a way that others would not have in a similar situation.
- Causation: Unfortunately, a breach of duty sometimes isn’t enough to warrant a case strong enough to seek out a personal injury attorney. For example, just because you were involved in a car accident doesn’t automatically make it the other driver’s fault. In these cases, you need to show that you were injured as a direct result of the responsible party’s actions.
- Damages: If you’re seriously considering reaching out to a personal injury attorney, you must have evidence that your injury has adversely affected your life in some manner. Whether your injury has impacted your ability to work, walk, or in another way, this information is important in building your case.
Can Social Media Affect the Strength of My Case?
In a word, yes. Sharing too much on social media after your injury could end up hurting you more in the end. Whether you like it or not, insurance companies can get a lot of information from your online profiles. A picture of you celebrating a birthday or going out to eat with your friends could pose a contradiction to your assertion that you’re stuck at home, suffering from your injuries.
Other things like tweets and Facebook statuses can affect your claim just as much as a picture, too. If one of your text posts indicates that you feel responsible or accept blame for what happened in some way, it could negatively affect your ability to form a strong case.
Starting Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
Starting the process of getting a personal injury lawsuit together can feel like a gargantuan task, especially when you’re recovering from a serious injury. If you’re unsure what to do first, here are the key steps you need to take.
Collect the Necessary Documentation
The first thing that you’ll need to do if you want to start a personal injury lawsuit is to gather some important paperwork. Evidence from the scene of your injury or accident will be crucial to this step. If you filed a police report, make sure you obtain a copy of that. Any photographs from the scene of your injury will also be helpful in this instance.
If you’ve obtained all of this information, but you’re not sure if it’s enough, take the time to write down your personal account of what happened when you were injured. This documentation can be extremely helpful in building your case. If you’ve obtained contact information from other parties who witnessed your injury, you may want to speak with them to obtain their account of the incident. Take detailed notes about these conversations as you have them.
In addition, make sure you have all of your medical bills, hospital paperwork, and documentation of things like lost wages or work. The aim of all of these documents is to provide proof that your life has been negatively affected by your injury.
Hire a Lawyer
For anything more serious than a minor claim, you’ll want to hire a lawyer. Depending on the nature of your injury, you may choose a lawyer that focuses on a certain field. For example, if you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may want to begin your search with lawyers who focus on personal injuries sustained in car accidents.
It’s important to note that you should begin looking for a lawyer as soon as you can after your injury occurs. If you suffered a significant injury or a significant loss as a result of your injury, you’ll absolutely need a lawyer.
During your first meeting with your lawyer, they’ll ask you to tell them about what happened leading up to your injury. This conversation will help provide some important information that may help your case. The length of this conversation may vary depending on the circumstances of your injury. For example, a two-car accident may not take very long, especially if you’re coming prepared with police reports and other essential information. This is, again, why it’s so important to collect all of that documentation surrounding your injury that we mentioned above.
If you’re still curious about what to expect during your first meeting with a lawyer, here are a few other items you may cover together:
- Your insurance coverage
- Authorization of release for your medical information
- Whether anyone else has interviewed you about your injury
- Current status of your injuries
- Retainer contract or another form of agreement to representation
- Referral to another lawyer
During your initial conversation, remember that a lawyer may accept or decline your case for a number of reasons. Factors like their current caseload, their capabilities or areas of practice, or even economic situations may play into this decision. In addition, you might hear that you don’t have much of a case. Either way, you won’t know until you consult with a legal professional.
In the event that your lawyer does accept your case, you can move forward in the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Notify the Appropriate Party That You’re Filing a Lawsuit
Whether its an employer or the driver of a vehicle involved in the car accident that injured you, it’s necessary to notify them that you’re filing a lawsuit. While in most cases, there’s no strict timeline on when you need to do this, it’s always better to do it as soon as possible. Certain states have stricter timelines for this process, so make sure you’re familiar with your state’s laws regarding notification. Not only does this preserve your rights, but you also prevent the other party from defending against a lawsuit by arguing you took too long to inform them of your injury. Adding to that, notifying the other party that you plan to file a lawsuit can help ensure your claim is resolved more quickly.
Settlement May Occur Before a Lawsuit Is Filed
Fortunately, many smaller personal injury claims are settled before an official lawsuit is even filed. In these cases, if your lawyer believes your case can be settled, they’ll make a demand to the other party’s attorney or insurance company. If this demand isn’t met or is refused, that’s typically the point at which a lawsuit is officially filed.
In addition, demand will often not be made until you, the plaintiff, reached a point at which you’ve recovered to the extent that you’re capable. This is called being at the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is largely due to the fact that your lawyer might not be able to accurately assess how much your case is worth until that point. Not only that, but if your case ends up going to trial before you reach MMI, a jury may undervalue it.
Mediation, Negotiation, and Trial
After your lawsuit is filed, a process called discovery will precede mediation and negotiation. At this point, your lawyer and the other party’s lawyer will investigate their adversary’s claims and defense. This process is not a short one. In fact, discovery can last anywhere from six months to a whole year.
Once this process comes to a close, talks about the settlement will typically begin. In some cases, lawyers may be able to settle a case as a result of talking with one another. In other cases, mediation is the next logical step. This process involves both lawyers and their clients (you and the other party) going in front of a mediator in an attempt to reach a settlement to your case.
If mediation isn’t successful, your case will go to trial. The length of a personal injury trial may vary based on the nature of your injury and recovery.
Research Your State’s Statute of Limitations
One of the most important things to remember when you’re proceeding with a personal injury lawsuit is your state’s statute of limitations. This policy dictates how long you have to actually file your personal injury claim. If you fail to file a personal injury claim within this period of time, you may end up forfeiting your claim to compensation for your injuries.
Personal Injury Compensation Matters
From being injured to completing your trial, this entire process might feel overwhelming. But by following these steps and placing your trust in an experienced personal injury attorney, you’re closer than ever to get the compensation you deserve.
Your recovery is important. Let a personal injury attorney help you along the road to total recovery from your injury.